Frivolous Posts Falls City Handicap Upset

G. Watts Humphrey Jr.’s homebred Frivolous stalked the early pace before taking over in the stretch and held off 9-10 favorite Don’t Tell Sophia to win the $222,600 Falls City Handicap (gr. II) on the Nov. 27 Thanksgiving Day card at Churchill Downs (VIDEO).

The 4-year-old Kentucky-bred daughter of Empire MakerSixty Rocketts, by Belong to Me, ridden by Jon Court under 117 pounds, tracked the moderate pace set by Teen Pauline and jockey Julien Leparoux as they took the field three-quarters of mile in 1:13.47. Shifted three wide in the far turn, Frivolous took a clear lead in the stretch and then withstood the late challenge of Don’t Tell Sophia.

Don’t Tell Sophia, the 125-pound highweight coming off a troubled second to Untapable in the Longines Breeders’ Cup Distaff (gr. I), ran her typical race, racing last in the eight-horse field before unleashing a late rally that fell a half-length short. Molly Morgan, who was never far off the pace, finished third, followed by Flashy American, Tiz Windy, Mufajaah, Strut the Course, and Teen Pauline.

Final time for 1 1/8 miles over a fast main track was 1:51.24. The second-longest shot in the field of fillies and mares, Frivolous returned $40.80, $14.20, and $6.80, with Don’t Tell Sophia worth $3.00 and $2.20. Molly Morgan paid $3.80 to show. The top two combined for a $113.20 exacta payout for $2.

The Falls City was the first stakes triumph for Frivolous, who has been trained by Victoria Oliver, Humphrey’s daughter, to a record of 3-3-3 and earnings of $333,498 from 17 starts.

“She’s always been a spectacular filly, she really has,” Oliver said. “She never really had the kind of trip we wanted (in the past); she likes to be on the outside and Jon (Court) rode her perfect. She’s a free-striding filly. She got it today.”

Court, who recently turned 54, has had a resurgence since returning from a 21-week hiatus after breaking his right hand during an accident in the final race on Kentucky Derby Day.

“It’s been remarkably well and incredible,” Court said. “I’m very fortunate. I was very concerned coming back off the (broken) hand and they didn’t expect me to be back until 2015. But fortunately I was able to make it back many months earlier (on Sept. 27) and be able to start winning races… Coming back and winning this one for the Olivers today is the icing on the cake with the candles for my birthday week.”

This was the second straight year that Spinster Stakes (gr. I) winner Don’t Tell Sophia finished second in the Falls City.

“She ran hard,” trainer and part-owner Phil Sims said. “The pace was slow. They went the (first) quarter in :25 and we were 10 (lengths) off of  it, and then they went the half in :49-and-change and we were still 10 off of it. She ran well despite the slow pace and the winner ran great. Carrying top weight is tough to do, and she was spotting everybody a lot of weight. But she ran well and we’re happy with her. It was a good try.”

Previous to the Thanksgiving Day feature at Churchill, the filly finished fourth, only 1 1/2 lengths behind winner Molly Morgan, in the Gardenia Stakes (gr. III) at Ellis Park; third, beaten 2 1/2 lengths by winner Don’t Tell Sophia in the Locust Grove Stakes at Churchill; and fifth, only 1 3/4 lengths off winner White Rose, in the Dowager Stakes at Keeneland Oct. 19.

The Falls Citya reference to the Ohio River falls or rapids that drop some 30 feet just west of downtown Louisvilleis one of the four original stakes races that were created by Churchill Downs founder Col. M. Lewis Clark for the inaugural meet in 1875. The race has been run on Thanksgiving Day since 1978.

Racing on Thanksgiving Day at Churchill Downs has been a Louisville tradition since 1969. The track said more than 7,000 turkey dinners with all the trimmingsthe largest number anywhere in the regionwere served.


Speedy Cassatt Dusts Rivals in Zia Park Oaks


Speedy Cassatt Dusts Rivals in Zia Park Oaks

Photo: Coady Photography – Cassatt dominates the Zia Park Oaks

Bouncing back from a ninth-place finish in last month’s Raven Run Stakes (gr. II), eastern invader Cassatt led at every call while drawing off in the final furlong for an emphatic win in the $309,000 Zia Park Oaks Nov. 26.

Cassatt secured the second stakes win of her career by 4 1/2 lengths with Kerwin Clark aboard. The daughter of Tapit   ran the 1 1/16-mile distance in a strong 1:42.29 over a fast track, bettering five other sophomore fillies as the second choice at odds of 9-5.

The winner was named in honor of impressionist painter Mary Cassat.t

The Oaks was the featured Thoroughbred event on a stakes-filled afternoon on the “Land of Enchantment Day” program at Zia Park in Hobbs, N.M. A race earlier on the card, California invader Alert Bay scored in the Zia Park Derby in track record time of 1:41.80 for the same 1 1/16-mile distance as the Oaks. The Zia Park Distance Championship, won by Isn’t He Clever by a nose over Ol Winedrinker Who, also established a track record of 1:48.48 for 1 1/8 miles.

Cassatt took the lead from Belleofthebeach shortly after the break as she angled toward the inside, and led narrowly through an opening quarter mile of :23.36 while Taste Like Candy ranged up on her outside to challenge. They completed the half in :46.46 with Cassatt leading by half a length, and she inched away from the Jerry Hollendorfer-trained Taste Like Candy early on the far turn, opening up by 1 1/2 lengths while completing six furlongs in 1:10.08.

The gray filly was firmly in control as she straightened for home with a second Hollendorfer trainee, Thegirlinthatsong, taking up the chase. But the eventual runner-up was no match for the winner, who sped away from her rivals through the lane under smooth handling by Clark, her rider in the past five starts.

“She likes to be on the front end, and she has a really high cruising speed,” Clark said. “I look for bigger and better things from her down the road.”

Thegirlinthatsong was three lengths clear of 7-5 favorite Shanon Nicole, whose two-race stakes winning streak was halted. Shannon Nicole raced at the rear of the pack for a half mile before rallying mildly to get the show spot. Belleofthebeach was 8 1/4 lengths farther back in fourth, followed by Dream Spinner and Taste Like Candy. Grade II winner Jojo Warrior, the second choice on the morning line, was scratched.

Cassatt, winning for the fourth time in six starts and boosting her earnings to $339,233, paid $5.60, $2.80, and $2.60. Thegirlinthatsong, ridden by Rafael Bejarano, returned $4 and $3 while completing a $27.80 exacta. Shanon Nicole, under equal weights of 122 pounds, paid $2.20 with Corey Nakatani aboard.

Trained by Larry Jones for Rick Porter’s Fox Hill Farms, Cassatt was stretching back to two turns after being soundly defeated in the seven-furlong Raven Run at Keeneland Oct. 18. She previously won the 1 1/16-mile Monmouth Oaks (gr. III) in front-running fashion this summer, which was followed by a fifth-place finish in the Cotillion Stakes (gr. I) Sept. 20.

Jones said Cassatt will be pointed to the $400,000 Houston Ladies Classic at Sam Houston Race Park in January. Like the Zia Park Oaks, the Houston Ladies Classic is part of the nationwide $5 million Penn Gaming Racing Challenge.

“She’s very talented, and hopefully now we have her career where we want it,” Jones said. “I think she’s one of the most talented horses I’ve ever trained.”

Cassatt was a $300,000 purchase from the 2012 Keeneland September yearling sale when consigned by breeder Mt. Brilliant Farm. She is out of the Giant’s Causeway   mare Justenufftime.



Peter Redekop’s Alert Bay scored by three lengths for jockey Rico Walcott in the $215,000 Zia Park Derby, taking the lead while circling three wide on the turn and opening up for an authoritative decision. The City Zip   gelding out of the Chilean mare Hickory, by Dushyantor, was bred in California by Thomas Newton Bell and Ross John McLeod and is trained by Blaine Wright.

Alert Bay ($7.20) ran his winning streak to three following back-to-back stakes victories at Hastings Racecourse in British Columbia in the British Columbia Derby (Can-III) and Premier Handicap (gr. III). The 5-2 second choice, he defeated the late-running 7-10 favorite, Tonito M., with Proceed third.

Four scratches reduced the $159,000 Zia Park Distance Championship to four starters as Isn’t He Clever ($4.40) posted his third consecutive win with Enrique Gomez aboard for owners Kirk and Judy Robison. Previously in the barn of Henry Dominguez, the 5-year-old Smarty Jones   gelding was making his first start for trainer Johnnie Nall.

Code West, the 9-10 favorite in the short field, was third.

The total handle of $1.28 million Wednesday was the second highest in the 10-year history of Zia Park. The Penn Gaming Racing Challenge will continue on Saturday at Zia Park’s sister racetrack, Penn National Race Course in Grantville, Pa.


Secret Circle, Itsmyluckyday in Cigar Mile


Secret Circle, Itsmyluckyday in Cigar Mile

Photo: Chad B. Harmon – Secret Circle faces Itsmyluckyday and 7 others in the Cigar Mile.

A solid field will line up Nov. 29 for the $500,000 Cigar Mile (gr. I) at Aqueduct Racetrack, as grade I winners Secret Circle and Itsmyluckyday   face off amongst a cast that includes Private Zone, Vyjack, and Bourbon Courage.

The Cigar Mile anchors a Saturday card in New York that includes the $400,000 Remsen Stakes (gr. II) for juveniles and the $400,000 Demoiselle Stakes (gr. II) for juvenile fillies, as well as the $400,000 Comely Stakes (gr. III) for 3-year-old fillies.

Nine will contest the one-turn mile, with California shipper Secret Circle leading the group from the barn of Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert. Though he has yet to win in 2014 for owners Karl Watson, Mike Pegram, and Paul Weitman, the 5-year-old son of Eddington   has not been off the board in three starts and comes off a runner-up finish by half a length in the Nov. 1 Breeders’ Cup Sprint (gr. I), a race he won in 2013.

Secret Circle, who drew post 6 under jockey Joel Rosario, stretches out beyond six furlongs for the first time since he finished second as a 3-year-old in the 2012 Arkansas Derby (gr. I).

Private Zone, trained by Alfredo Velazquez for Good Friends Stable, was runner-up to multiple grade I winner Flat Out   in the 2013 edition of the Cigar Mile. He also ships in from California and comes off a third in the Breeders’ Cup Sprint, 1 1/4 lengths behind Secret Circle—a race he used as a springboard to this event last year.

In the 2013 Cigar Mile, the 5-year-old Macho Uno   runner set a solid pace at odds of 32-1 and was overtaken in the final sixteenth of a mile by Flat Out to finish second by 1 1/4 lengths.

Martin Pedroza gets the mount on Private Zone from the rail. Private Zone and Secret Circle share highweight assignment of 122 pounds with Itsmyluckyday.

Trained by Eddie Plesa Jr., Itsmyluckyday was rested after running third in the Sept. 27 Kelso Handicap (gr. II) won by fellow Cigar Mile contender Vyjack. The 4-year-old Lawyer Ron colt has not been off the board in seven starts in 2014 since rehabbing from a pelvic fracture. He won three races in a row before finishing second in the Whitney (gr. I) en route to a victory in the Woodward (gr. I) this summer at Saratoga Race Course.

Seeking his first grade I win in what could be his final start for Triology Stable and Laurie Plesa (he is to stand at Spendthrift in 2015), Itsmyluckyday drew post 2 and will have regular rider Paco Lopez in the irons.

Bourbon Courage, the fourth-place finisher from the Breeders’ Cup Sprint, is an intriguing contender still in search of his first grade I victory. The Lion Heart 5-year-old made up tremendous ground in the Sprint, closing 10 lengths and finishing beaten just two for trainer Kellyn Gorder and Bourbon Lane Stable.

Another of interest is Godolphin’s Transparent, a 4-year-old son of Bernardini   who set the track record for 1 1/16 miles at Belmont Park Sept. 18 in his last outing.

Vyjack, trained by Rudy Rodriguez for Pick Six Racing, completes the field along with Regally Ready, Big Business, and Noble Moon.

Cigar Mile H. (gr. I)

Aqueduct Racetrack, Saturday, November 29, 2014, Race 10
  • 1m
  • Dirt
  • $500,000
  • 3 yo’s & up
  • 4:17 PM (local)
PP Horse Jockey Weight Trainer
1 Private Zone (ON) Martin A. Pedroza 122 Alfredo Velazquez
2 Itsmyluckyday (KY) Paco Lopez 122 Edward Plesa, Jr.
3 Noble Moon (VA) Jose L. Ortiz 114 Leah Gyarmati
4 Vyjack (KY) Irad Ortiz, Jr. 118 Rudy R. Rodriguez
5 Transparent (FL) Javier Castellano 114 Kiaran P. McLaughlin
6 Secret Circle (KY) Joel Rosario 122 Bob Baffert
7 Big Business (NY) Cornelio H. Velasquez 116 David Jacobson
8 Regally Ready (KY) John R. Velazquez 117 Steven M. Asmussen
9 Bourbon Courage (KY) Jose Lezcano 117 Kellyn Gorder


Kentucky Derby Futures starts Friday


In the first 2015 Kentucky Derby Future Wager, set to open a three-day run of betting Nov. 28, two-time Grade 1 winner American Pharoah is the top individual morning-line choice at odds of 12-1.

As usual, the “all others” wagering interest is the morning-line favorite at 3-5. “All others” would include all 3-year-olds of 2015 not listed on the first future wager, which includes 23 individual horses and the “all others” option. Churchill Downs oddsmaker Mike Battaglia set the morning-line for the wager, the first of four Derby future wagers planned before the 2015 Louisville classic.

Wagering on this first pool is scheduled to open at noon (all times EST) Friday, Nov. 28, and conclude at 6 p.m., Sunday, Nov. 30.

“All Others” was the winning 4-5 favorite in last year’s inaugural November pool of the Kentucky Derby Future Wager. A total of $273,174 was wagered during that pool, including $35,096 in exacta bets. California Chrome, the eventual winner of the 2014 Kentucky Derby, was not listed among its wagering interests.

Total betting in the 2014 Kentucky Derby Future Wager, the first to feature four wagering pools, was $1,324,466.

Free Brisnet Ultimate Past Performances for wagering interest in Pool 1 of the Kentucky Derby Future Wager are available here.

Three additional Kentucky Derby Future Wager pools are scheduled in the months leading up to Kentucky Derby 141. The dates for those pools are:

KDFW Pool 2: Friday, February 6 through Sunday, February 8 (12 weeks in advance of Derby)

KDFW Pool 3: Friday, February 27 through Sunday, March 1 (nine weeks in advance of Derby)

KDFW Pool 4: Friday, March 27 through Sunday, March 29 (five weeks in advance of Derby)

TAA Accredits 19 Aftercare Organizations

The Thoroughbred Aftercare Alliance has accredited 19 equine aftercare organizations, bringing the total number of sanctioned organizations to 42, with more than 120 facilities throughout North America.

Accredited organizations may apply for grants annually from the TAA to go toward the ongoing care of retired Thoroughbreds, with individual grant amounts based on a comprehensive review and allocation process by the TAA grants committee and approval from the TAA board of directors. An announcement regarding 2015 grants will be made in December.

“In a relatively short period of time, the TAA has built a strong program and the industry has shown great action and momentum in getting behind it,” said Stacie Clark, operations consultant for TAA. “This year alone, the TAA will have accredited 19 new facilities, bringing the total number of accredited organizations to 42 in just two years, and these organizations will receive approximately $2.5 million in grants.”

The newly-accredited organizations include: Biszantz Memorial (dba Tranquility Farm), Bright Futures Farm, Inc., CANTER Michigan, Equestrian Inc., Equine Advocates Incorporated, Final Furlong, Inc., Finger Lakes Thoroughbred Adoption Program, Inc., Friends of Ferdinand Indiana, Inc., Harmony and Hope, Heaven Can Wait, Inc., Illinois Equine Humane Center, NFP, Los Angeles Pet Rescue/Farralone Farms, Oklahoma Thoroughbred Retirement Program, Ltd., Our Mims Retirement Haven, R.A.C.E Fund, Inc., Racehorse Remember Me Rescue Foundation, Second Stride, Inc., Square Peg Foundation, and Thoroughbred Athletes, Inc.

To hold TAA accreditation, an organization must complete a thorough application process and meet the TAA Code of Standards, both of which have been reviewed and approved by the American Humane Society and the American Association of Equine Practitioners. The application process includes a review of operations, education, horse healthcare management, facility standards and services and adoption policies and protocols, and an on-site inspection of their facilities by TAA representatives.

Based in Lexington TAA is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization designed to serve as both an accrediting body for aftercare facilities that care for Thoroughbreds following the conclusion of their racing careers, and a fundraising body to support these approved facilities. Funded initially by seed money from the Breeders’ Cup, Ltd, The Jockey Club, and Keeneland Association, the TAA is comprised of and supported by owners, trainers, breeders, racetracks, jockeys, aftercare professionals, and other industry groups.

More information at TAA’s website.


Penn National Postpones Big Wednesday Card

The threat of a Thanksgiving Eve holiday snowstorm set to hit the mid-Atlantic region has forced the postponement of the Wednesday, Nov. 26, Holiday Racing Festival card at Hollywood Casino at Penn National Race Course.

The entire 10-race card, featuring three stakes including the $200,000 Fabulous Strike Handicap, has been rescheduled for Saturday night, Nov. 29. First race post time will be 6 p.m.

“With the weather services calling for the storm, this was the logical call,” said director of racing Eric Johnston. “We spoke with the local horsemen and consensus was that in the best interest of safety for all parties, the program should be (postponed). Many of the horses that were entered in the stakes were coming in from other tracks, and there is no guarantee that they, or many of our fans, would have been able to get here if all the weather reports for the region prove to be on target.”

The Fabulous Strike, $75,000 Blue Mountain Juvenile Fillies, and the $100,000 Swatara Stakes are the final three legs of an early Pick Four. The Fabulous Strike, which drew a field of 12, and the Swatara Stakes, are both part of the Penn Gaming Challenge.

The Food For Friends Charity Food Drive to support the Racetrack Chaplaincy Food Bank, also has been rescheduled for Saturday evening.



SEVENTH RACE Probable Post 2:51 MST 
1 1/16 Miles. 3-Year-Olds. Zia Park Derby. Purse: $200,000


 3   Tonito M.   Bejarano R    122       5-2 
 8   Can the Man   Garcia M    122       7-2 
 5   Alert Bay   Walcott R W    122       9-2 
 2   Bay of Biscay   Carreno J    122       5-1 
 4   Proceed   Juarez A J Jr    122       8-1 
 6   Walt   Berry M C    122       8-1 
 1   Alsono   Eikleberry R    122       10-1 
 7   Street Prancer   Nakatani C S    122       10-1 

Hoppertunity, Constitution Head Clark

Rebel Stakes (gr. II) winner Hoppertunity and Besilu Stables Florida Derby (gr. I) winner Constitution join fellow 3-year-old and recent Discovery Handicap (gr. III) victor Protonico when taking on six older runners Nov. 28 in the $500,000 Clark Handicap (gr. I) at Churchill Downs.

The 1 1/8-mile season finale at the Louisville oval did not draw a star-studded cast such as last year, when eventual 3-year-old champion Will Take Charge   bested multi-millionaire Game On Dude after both competed in the Breeders’ Cup Classic (gr. I). Only one runner is doubling back from the Breeders’ Cup to the year-end handicap—Prayer for Relief, who was 12th in the Classic on Nov. 1 and will make his third Clark bid after running ninth behind Wise Dan in 2011 and last of nine in 2013.

Still, many count the two top 3-year-olds in the field of nine among those who could have made some noise before they were forced to the sidelines earlier in the season.

Hoppertunity, who runs for Mike Pegram, Karl Watson, and Paul Weitman, was highly regarded on the road to the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I) before quarter cracks and an ankle chip took him out of the race on the Friday before the Derby. The son of Any Given Saturday   is a half brother to multiple grade I winner Executiveprivilege.

SHULMAN: Hoppertunity Gets Churchill Chance in Clark

Trained by Hall of Fame horseman Bob Baffert, Hoppertunity returned from the layoff Oct. 29 with a good second in a seven-furlong allowance. Before undergoing surgery in the spring at Rood & Riddle Equine Hospital, he was second in the Santa Anita Derby (gr. I) to eventual Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner California Chrome. He will break from the rail under jockey Martin Garcia and an impost of 118 pounds, and turned in his final pre-race work Nov. 23 at Santa Anita Park, going five furlongs in 1:00 flat.

Constitution was also knocked off the Triple Crown trail in early 2014 after showing great promise for WinStar Farm and Twin Creeks Racing. The Tapit   colt won three in a row capped by his Florida Derby score, including a February allowance at Gulfstream Park by 3 1/4 lengths over eventual Belmont Stakes (gr. I) winner Tonalist, but a hairline fracture in his right front cannon bone took him out of commission in April.

Trainer Todd Pletcher brought Constitution back Oct. 12 at Belmont Park in a 1 1/16-mile allowance, where he ran fourth behind fellow Clark rival Easter Gift. Javier Castellano, who has been aboard for each of Constitution’s four starts, retains the mount as part of an assignment of 119 pounds. They will depart post 7.

Easter Gift ran third in last year’s Clark for trainer Chad Brown but has had a rough campaign with just three starts since then. He was off the board in two stakes including the Monmouth Cup (gr. II) and only just got a win in that Oct. 12 event at Belmont. However, owner Robert LaPenta has kept his faith in the 5-year-old son of Hard Spun  , and sends him back to Churchill for another try.

BLOOD-HORSE STAFF: Easter Gift Takes Unusual Path Back to Clark

Of the other older horses entered, Departing proves an interesting candidate still in search of his first grade I win. The 4-year-old War Front   gelding earned victories in the Super Derby (gr. II), West Virginia Derby (gr. II), and Illinois Derby (gr. III) last year, but could not break through at the top level when sixth in the Preakness Stakes (gr. I).

This season Claiborne Farm and Adele Dilschneider’s homebred runner was third in the Stephen Foster Handicap (gr. I) back in June for trainer Al Stall Jr., and he also ran second in the Homecoming Classic to Cigar Street Sept. 27 following an eighth in the Whitney Handicap (gr. I). He comes off a second in the Fayette Stakes (gr. II) at Keeneland after missing by just a neck to another Clark contender, Pick of the Litter, the 9-2 fourth choice on the morning line.

Pick of the Litter and Departing share highweight duties; each will carry 121 pounds. While Departing was made the mild 3-1 morning line favorite by oddsmaker Mike Battaglia, Constitution and Hoppertunity are co-second choices at 7-2 on the morning line.


Indiana Trainer Facing Three-Year Suspension

The Indiana Horse Racing Commission’s executive director is recommending a three-year suspension of trainer Mike Norris for allegedly administering drugs on race day at least five times this spring at Indiana Grand Racing & Casino.

In a 73-page administrative penalty complaint issued this month, IHRC executive director Joe Gorajec recommended Norris be suspended for three years and fined $15,000, and that the involved horses be disqualified. In Indiana, the IHRC delegates authority to the executive director to prepare and issue administrative complaints.

A hearing for Norris is expected to be scheduled in January.

The complaint outlines five incidents of horses saddled by Norris who tested positive for hydrocortisone succinate (Cortisol) from May 28-June 20 this year at levels that an LGC Science report say indicate they were administered on race day.

In the report, LGC laboratory director Rick Sams said a finding above 250 picograms per milliliter in the blood is indicative of administration within 24 hours of the time of sample collection. The report said the five Norris samples in question all tested above that 250 pg/ml level. At least two of the tests were more than 10 times over that 250 pg/ml level.

Hydrocortisone succinate is a Class 4 substance on the Association of Racing Commissioners’ Uniform Classification Guidelines for Foreign Substances. The five-class system used to characterize substances considers Class 1 to be of the most concern on down to Class 5, the least concern. Class 4 substances are therapeutic substances with a low probability to affect performance.

While Cortisol would typically be of relatively low concern to regulators and carry minimal penalties, the race-day administration of any substance is of high concern, as indicated by the recommended sanctions. With the exception of furosemide, Indiana, like most U.S. jurisdictions, strictly forbids the administration of all substances 24 hours before a race.

The names of the five Norris-saddled horses who tested positive for hydrocortisone succinate were redacted in the copy of the administrative complaint provided to The Blood-Horse. In each season since 2010, Norris has saddled at least 90 starters who have earned at least $215,000. His 159 starters this year had won 10 races, placed in 48 others, and earned more than $275,000.

The IHRC believes information collected during an investigation also supports the allegation that Norris administered drugs or compounded substances on race day.

Norris was summarily suspended Aug. 26 for alleged misdeeds that also involved veterinarian Ross Russell. An IHRC administrative complaint last month called Russell, 31, of Tampa, Fla., a veterinarian “whose ethical compass is broken” and recommended he be suspended 20 years.

That 38-page administrative report filed in October alleged that one of Russell’s assistants provided Norris with loaded syringes. The October administrative complaint alleges Russell’s assistant would “stand on the toilet and leave it on the ledge to the right.”

The assistant, Libby Rees, D.V.M., who worked for Russell from April 1 to Aug. 14, 2014, said in the complaint that she was not aware what was in the syringe but noted it was larger than normal. The complaint also says that Rees was instructed to leave “an unopened bottle of P-Block and an unopened bottle of dexamethazone for Mr. Norris.”

P-Block is a compound that, according to Internet ads for the product, is used to reduce neurological pain. One of the compound’s ads lists the pain-killer Sarapin, defined by a National Institutes of Health study as a suspension of powdered Sarracenia purpurin (pitcher plant) in alkaline solution, as the active ingredient. The anti-inflammatory Dexamethazone (Azium) is a Class 4 substance.

The administrative complaint noted that having a veterinarian’s assistant drop off such substances at the barn would allow the trainer, or his staff, to conduct race-day administrations.

Norris appealed the immediate suspension handed down in August but an administrative law judge upheld the IHRC’s decision. The trainer’s attorney had filed objections to that ruling.


Live Racing Blows In at Mahoning Valley



Live Racing Blows In at Mahoning Valley

Photo: Tom LaMarra – Mahoning Valley Race Course sees a double rainbow opening day.

Hollywood Gaming at Mahoning Valley Race Course held its first-ever racing program Nov. 24 before a fairly large crowd on a wild weather day in northeastern Ohio.

Mahoning Valley, owned by Penn National Gaming Inc., is the replacement for Beulah Park, the Columbus-area track that held its last live race in early May. PNGI received permission to move the Beulah Park license to the Youngstown area to construct a racetrack with video lottery terminals.

The barn area, with almost 1,000 stalls, has been well received by horsemen who plan to winter at the facility.

“They’re still getting all the kinks worked out, but I think they tried to do a good job,” said trainer Tim Hamm, who has 24 horses on the grounds and the rest of his stable in Florida. “I like the backside. It’s very nice all in all for winter racing. The track has been deep so far, so they’ll have to get it tightened up a bit.”

The first race, for $4,000 claimers at one mile and 70 yards, was won by the favorite, Baby Time, owned by Sola Del Gloria Stable, Edward Warner, and Linda White. The 7-year-old Timekeeper gelding is trained by Hugh McMahon, who shipped him from Laurel Park in Maryland, and was ridden by Luis Colon.

The final time of 1:49.52 was rather slow for the distance, but a strong homestretch headwind that sometimes gusted to 30 miles per hour didn’t help. The dirt surface was rated good for the card.

The feature, a $22,000 allowance race for Ohio-bred fillies and mares, was captured easily by Loooch Racing Stable’s Caviar N Champagne for trainer Jeff Radosevich and jockey Scott Spieth. The 5-year-old Formal Dinner mare, who covered six furlongs in 1:14.58 as the heavy choice in the wagering, now has four wins and three seconds in seven starts this year, including three stakes wins, and is a strong candidate for Ohio Horse of the Year.

Temperatures to start the program were in the mid-60s, unusual for the area in late November. The wind and occasional showers made it feel 10 degrees cooler.

A brief double rainbow that appeared over the paddock and far turn before the fourth race was a welcome sight for the superstitious, though some of the locals in the crowd were talking about the cold and snow to come in the valley, which is located about 60 miles south of Lake Erie.

Light snow is in the forecast for the second day of racing.

Ohio State Racing Commission member Mark Munroe, who lives in the Mahoning Valley, noted the last race at a non-fair track in the area was run July 15, 1915, at Southern Park in nearby Boardman. It is believed the track offered Thoroughbred and harness racing.

There are several county fair tracks in the area that hold limited pari-mutuel harness racing a few days each year.

“Here we are now, almost 100 years later, and racing is back in the Mahoning Valley,” Munroe said. “It was a challenge getting here, but my hat is off to Penn Gaming. They did a fabulous job with this place. It has been a great collaborative effort.”

“This is a historic day for racing in Ohio and the Mahoning Valley,” said Mark Loewe, director of Ohio racing operations for PNGI. “This couldn’t have happened without monumental contributions from many organizations and individuals.”

Purses at Mahoning Valley will start out at an average of $55,000-$60,000 a day for eight-race cards. But VLT play in a little more than two months has been strong, and a purse overpayment of about $3 million at Beulah Park already has been eliminated.

According to the Ohio Lottery Commission, from Sept. 17, the day VLTs became operational, through the end of October, Mahoning Valley generated $14.55 million in revenue from about 850 machines.

The 2014 race meet runs through Dec. 30. The 2015 meet begins Jan. 5 and extends through late April. The track will follow the racing schedule formerly employed by Beulah Park.